Suicide awareness curriculum examined

December 29, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Issaquah School District middle and high school teachers will meet with district officials next month to discuss adopting a state-produced suicide curriculum — Look, Listen, Link.Officials at the Youth Suicide Prevention Program of Washington State and the state superintendent’s office developed the statewide curriculum.

The most recent Washington State Healthy Youth Survey — a survey taken every other year by students in sixth through 12th grades — indicates nearly 25 percent of eighth-graders have felt depressed. Fourteen percent said they had seriously considered killing themselves, according to a press release sent out by the state superintendent’s office.

The curriculum was designed to give students skills to help a friend in need and earned a place among the federal Best Practices Registry maintained by The Suicide Prevention Resource Center. It is the first middle school level suicide prevention curriculum in the nation to be granted that status, the release said.

The materials consist of four 45-minute lessons, designed for middle-school teachers to easily embed into their health and social skills curricula during the school year.

Students engage in interactive exercises, classroom discussions, role-play practice and observation through an accompanying DVD produced by Youth Suicide Prevention Program officials and the Spokane-based North By Northwest.

“Stress and coping skills are part of our health curriculum,” said Sara Niegowski, district director of communications. “We currently do not have a district-adopted curriculum for suicide prevention other than what is addressed in the health curriculum.”

The curriculum, if adopted, would be supplemental material.

At the meeting, teachers and district officials will explore how the curriculum might fit within health courses and the benefit it may have for students.

Some schools already use parts of the curriculum through student organizations, like Natural Helpers or Signs of Suicide clubs, that educate students about suicide or depression and provide peer-to-peer links and help.

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